Wetsuits – the basics explained!
There are two main types of wetsuits, open cell and closed cell, which one will I need?
The closed cell wetsuit has been designed for surfing and most on the water sports. It’s a “hydrdynamic” style suit. These usually have a chest or back zipped. It’s the same construction as you would also find in a triathlon or swimming wetsuit. A closed cell wetsuit would allow too much water in for diving; it will make you cold a lot quicker.
For diving an open celled wetsuit is best. This provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While they are a difficult to get in and out of (If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap and it will be much easier), they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.
Wetsuit design is always progressing, mainly the zipper positions and also adding more flex to the neoprene. Gul wetsuits use a technology called X-Flex, Ripcurl use 100% Superstretch neoprene or Flex energy in some of their newer suits. Xcel use Channel Flex. They are all very similar and do the same thing, make your suit stretchy.
What kind of zip should I get? There are 3 main versions, back-zip, Chest-zip and Zipper less.
Back-zip – Back-zip wetsuits were the fist on the market and are almost always the cheaper option of the three. They’re great for swimming/surfing in warmer waters on summer or late spring, but they are not the best option in colder waters. The main disadvantage is that they let in too much water in through the zip.
Chest-zip suit – Chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer as the zip is smaller so less space to let the water in. There is usually an inner layer, sometimes with a section that doubles around the neck for extra warmth. They can sometimes be harder to get on and off but the advance of Flex suits helps to make this much easier.
Zipperless Suits – Brands such as O’neill with their Hyperfreak models boast suits without zippers, they’re great as they minimalism the joins, which equates to less leaks. These are the most expensive suit out of the 3 and can sometimes be really tricky to get on and off.
Now you’ve chosen your suit, what thickness will you need?
Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimetres. The main focus on the warmth is around your middle near your kidneys, your core so usually the body thickness is greater on the body. The legs and arms are usually that bit thinner so you can still move around. Some brands add more flex to the elbows and knees. In warm conditions a 2/2 wetsuit would be sufficient, a 3/2 for spring-autumn and 4/3/2 or 5/3 for winter conditions. This is a guide only, it really does depend on the conditions and location.
In extreme or freezing conditions you will need to look a thicker suit –
6/5-or 6/5/4. There are also 7/6- and 7/6/5 mm wetsuits, but the thicker you go the more restrictive they become. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will usually suffice.
Lets have a quick look at the seams and the stitching
Overlock Stitching – This is the most common and standard stitching. The downside on this cheaper version is that it does allow water to seam in.
Flat Stitching – This is simply stitching made on an overlocker machine so the seams are flat on both sides.
Blind Stitching – This is a narrower style of stitching that flat stitching, the seams are usually glued first, they’re great at keeping the water out.
Sealed, taped and glued – this is exactly what it says, the seams are sealed tight, a taped is applied.
Liquid seamed – this is the best type of seal on a suit. A liquid rubber is applied to seal the joins gives a water tight finish.